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Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness

Big gains with lighter weights

Can less be more when it comes to building muscle?

If you’re trying to increase your muscle mass, whether you’re just starting a program or recovering from an injury, lifting lighter weights (with more repetitions) can be a useful way to minimize the risks associated with heavy weightlifting while still building muscle.

Lifting heavy weights can be risky, especially if you’re using improper form, don’t have a spotter, or try to lift weights during recovery from an injury. However, research suggests that lifting about 30% of your 1RM (one-rep-max) has effects on muscle growth similar to lifting 70–80% of your 1RM.  When your muscles are tired, they still use the same amount of energy, despite the weight, causing them to replenish protein loss in similar ways, resulting in muscle growth. It isn’t that lifting heavy weights is necessarily bad, but lifting lighter weights may be good for maintaining muscle mass and growth in certain cases, such as when your risk of injury may be greater than usual. 

Don’t get scammed by “all natural” claims

FDA warns consumers about the dangers hidden in “all natural” dietary supplements, as well as products marketed to treat or cure certain conditions.

Dietary supplements that claim to be “all natural” aren’t necessarily safe. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued 2 Consumer Updates warning consumers about “all natural” products for erectile dysfunction and imported dietary supplements.

According to FDA, supplements marketed as “all natural” sexual-enhancement products might be tainted with hidden drug ingredients. Some of these are the same active ingredients found in prescription drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction. Not only could you potentially be consuming multiple drug ingredients, you could be consuming them in amounts even greater than prescription doses. Either way, these types of products can put your health and career in danger. For more information, please read FDA’s Consumer Update on "'All Natural' Alternatives..."

Consumers should also beware of dietary supplements and nonprescription drugs marketed as “all natural” remedies for serious conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or heart disease. “Natural” does not necessarily mean safe, and these products also can contain undisclosed chemicals or drug ingredients that can be harmful. FDA specifically warns consumers about imported products sold online or at flea markets, or swap meets. Please read FDA’s Consumer Update on "Some Imported Dietary Supplements..." to learn more.

Eating on the road again

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Diet, Nutrition, Travel
Taking a holiday road trip? Make sure your car isn’t the only “vehicle” that’s properly fueled.

A critical part of any road trip is making sure you are nourished for the journey. Vacation leave is approved, your pet is at the sitter, and suitcases are in the trunk. Are you ready to get in your car and drive? Your car is fueled but you are not. BIG mistake! As you prepare to travel, here are some ways to help you go the distance:

  • Eat before you go. However, foods such as coffee, doughnuts, energy drinks, and candy bars aren’t the right fuel. These types of foods can cause your energy levels to crash.
  • Pack a travel meal if you are going to be on the road for a while. It can be as easy as a peanut-butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread plus a banana.
  • Bring tasty snacks. Examples include popcorn, homemade trail mix (whole-wheat cereals such as wheat squares or toasty oats, nuts, dried fruit, cheese crackers, and chocolate pieces), fruit, and nuts. Sugar-free gum makes a great addition to your stash.
  • Stay hydrated. Bring along a water supply for each traveler.
  • Eat small amounts of food every 2–3 hours to stave off sleepiness. Instead of eating while you drive, take a break at a rest stop. You can also switch drivers if needed.

These tips can help you save money and time. In addition, you won’t be as tempted by the high-calorie, fatty, sugary foods offered at travel centers and gas stations. What’s more, you’ll arrive feeling refreshed and ready for the next adventure!

The real cost of tobacco

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Smoking, Tobacco
Learn about the real cost of using tobacco and find resources to help you quit.

Using tobacco hurts your wallet and your health. Cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, and chewing tobacco are expensive. Tobacco products can give you bad breath and stained teeth. Some tobacco users even lose their teeth. In addition, smoking tobacco damages your lungs, heart, and skin, causing you to look and feel older than you really are.

Despite all this, tobacco use among service members remains significantly higher compared to civilians. In an effort to reduce the number of tobacco users, the Defense Health Agency has teamed up with the Food and Drug Administration to promote “The Real Cost” campaign on military installations (at home and abroad).

The Department of Defense also sponsors an educational campaign that offers personalized plans for quitting tobacco and live 24-hour help. For more information, visit Quit Tobacco –

Forgiveness: A gift to you and yours

All relationships come with challenges. Forgiveness can be a gift to yourself, your spouse, and even your children.

Forgiveness can help you adapt, embrace flexibility, be happier, and move through resentment in your relationships. Balancing children, career, and your marriage is difficult enough; adding deployments to the mix can lead to eruptions with family members. Meditation has been has been shown to help people lower stress their levels and become more forgiving. To reduce friction with your partner or children, consider following these steps associated with forgiveness meditations:

  • Take a time-out, and find a quite space to calm down.
  • Relax and focus on slowing your breathing.
  • Recall times of closeness and connection with your spouse and children.
  • Develop awareness of your reactions, and patiently find your way to forgiveness.

Forgiving your partner or children is not only a gift to him or her, it’s also a gift to you! For more ideas about forgiveness, try this guided meditation and read about couples communication.

Cooking with herbs for health

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
Need a way to spice up your meals? Learn more about the benefits of cooking with herbs.

Herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and basil add a flavorful punch to meals, but they also may provide health benefits. Many herbs contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components. As plants, herbs contain beneficial phytochemicals, which are being researched for their role in cancer prevention. Here are some tips on using culinary herbs to make your meals both tastier and healthier.

  • Pre-seasoned, pre-flavored foods (such as rice) often cost more than the basics. Buy unseasoned, plain staples for your pantry, and then add your own variety by using different herbs.
  • If you’re trying to follow a low-sodium eating plan, substitute herbs in place of or in addition to a small amount of salt to season your meal.
  • Can’t use up fresh herbs fast enough? Purchase dried or frozen herbs, which have a longer shelf life. Just check your recipe, as you probably need to use less of dried herbs than fresh.

Ready to test your green thumb? Place potted herbs on your patio, deck, or windowsill for fresh herbs whenever you need them. Adding herbs to your meat, fish, vegetable, and grains not only adds color and flavor, but it also may be good for your health. Learn more about herb and food combinations.  

OPSS releases two new products

Use the new OPSS High-Risk Supplement List app and view “Get the Scoop on Supplements” to help you avoid dietary supplements that are dangerous to your health and career.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has two new products to help you stay safe when it comes to dietary supplements.

Now you can have the OPSS High-Risk Supplement List at your fingertips as a free app. With the app, you can either search the list for a specific product or use the barcode scanner to see if a product contains any high-risk ingredients such as stimulants, steroids, hormone-like ingredients, controlled substances, or unapproved drugs that could put your health or career at risk. For more information about how to download the app, please visit the Apps tab in Tools for Warfighters.

Want to learn more about supplements and how to choose them wisely? Check out the interactive presentation, “Get the Scoop on Supplements,” where you can watch videos, check your knowledge of dietary supplements, and find other helpful resources to help you reduce your risk of a positive urinalysis drug test and potential health issues. To view the presentation, please go to the Get the Scoop tab in Tools for Warfighters.

Meditation builds “brain muscles”

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Tactics, Total Force Fitness
Meditation can help retrain your brain, building resilience and well-being.

Meditation can actually change how your brain functions, building resilience and improving your performance. Much the same way you strengthen your muscles, when you exercise different parts of your brain, you make subtle changes to its structure. These physical changes lead to changes in your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Specifically, it can change those parts of the brain associated with anxiety, mind wandering, mood, fear, stress, empathy, emotion, and pain.

Meditation uses thinking strategies to better manage stress, using your mind to tune into sensations in your body, accept feelings, and observe thoughts without judgment. However, meditation is about much more than just relaxation. It actually creates a state of calm alertness. With the regular practice of meditation, you can bring about structural changes in your brain that make this condition last longer.

If you repeat the same thought or action many, many times, your brain forms new pathways—a process known as “neuroplasticity.” Whether you’re finding your way around a new base, or your children are learning their multiplication tables, skills become ingrained as the brain changes. Meditation helps by affecting the parts of your brain responsible for attention, the ability to think and act with flexibility, and managing emotions. In fact, the emotion regulation center of your brain can grow with meditation, the self-control center becomes more active, and as you become less stressed and fearful, the fear center in your brain can actually shrink in size.

You might not be aware of changes overnight, but persistence will yield rewards. And some meditation is better than none. Just as you get stronger with more time at the gym, the more you meditate, the better your brain becomes equipped to reach that state of calm alertness. To learn more about how to meditate, visit HPRC’s Mind-Body Techniques section.

Blue light’s bright and dark sides

HPRC Fitness Arena: Environment, Total Force Fitness
Filed under: Rest, Sleep, Technology
What is “blue light,” and how does it affect you?

Blue light is a type of light emitted from all electronic devices and energy-efficient light bulbs. It can give you an energy boost equal to or better than 2 cups of coffee. Blue light may even enhance athletic performance. Sounds great, right? But what if the missing piece of your performance puzzle is sleep? An energy boost during the day may be welcome, but using electronic gadgets at night can be detrimental to your sleep health. The blue light they emit can suppress the secretion of melatonin, a powerful sleep hormone, and disrupt your natural circadian rhythm. Try to manage your exposure to blue light with these tips:

  • During the day, take advantage of the bonus your electronic devices give you to boost your attention, reaction times, and mood.
  • Shut off all electronic devices at least 2 hours before you need to go to sleep.
  • Consider wearing blue-blocking glasses when you need to sleep but can’t avoid blue light.
  • If you like having a nightlight, use dim, red bulbs. Red light has less impact on your melatonin levels. (Parents take note for the nightlight in your child’s bedroom.)

One last tip: During the day, get plenty of bright daylight. It makes you feel better during the day, and it will help you sleep better at night.

Hot to (turkey) trot

Start your Thanksgiving off on the right foot (then the left).

Thanksgiving is a day of full hearts and full bellies, but consider starting your day off right with a little burn. Calorie burn that is. Pretty much wherever you are, you can find a road race (also popularly known as a “turkey trot”), and most are family friendly. A morning race can be a great way to burn some extra calories before you gobble down your afternoon feast. If you’re not up for the race crowds, find a quiet road for yourself, go for bike ride, or enjoy some fall foliage on a hike. Whatever floats your gravy boat. Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you to all of our service men and women and their families.

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